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DECAY OF THE CALIPHATE           85
ruled the Empire, the apparently moribund Caliphate
regained vigour and prestige.
The Zanj Insurrection, A.H. 255-270 (869-883).ŚNo
saying is truer than that history repeats itself, and the
insurrection of the Zanj or "Ethiopians" resembles
closely the Servile War headed by Spartacus which con-
vulsed the republic of Rome in the seventh decade B.C.
The Persian who headed the rising pretended to be
descended from AH, and at first laid claim to a spiritual
leadership, but this pretension was soon forgotten and he
merely appealed to the slaves, to whom he promised
liberty and plunder. After meeting with scant success
in Arabia, he occupied the country round Basra, including
the lower valley of the Karun, where thousands of slaves
and many Beduin flocked to his standards. Again and
again the imperial armies were defeated, and Basra itself
was stormed by the Zanj and given over to pillage and
massacre. The hordes then spread southward along both
coasts of the Persian Gulf, and northward till they captured
Wasit and sacked Ahwaz. At last Muaffak, who had
hitherto not been free to devote his entire attention to
this serious outbreak, concentrated a large force ; the
Zanj were surrounded in the difficult and marshy district
of the lower delta, and, after fifteen years of massacre
and rapine, Khabis, or cc the Reprobate," was slain and
thousands of prisoners were released.
The Brilliant Career of Takub bin Lais.ŚWe must
here return to Yakub bin Lais and follow his career to
its close. In A.H. 257 (871) he sent an envoy to Muaffak
with instructions to state that his master deemed himself
a humble slave of the Caliph, to whom he proposed to
offer his respects in person. As it was thought desirable
to keep Yakub as far away from Baghdad as possible,
the Caliph bestowed on him the governments of
Balkh, Tokharistan, and other distant eastern provinces.
Strengthened by his appointment as a high official of the
Caliphate, Yakub was everywhere victorious, even distant
Kabul being captured, together with its Turkish king,
who was a Buddhist. At length the Sistan adventurer
was ready to attack the Tahirid prince, who had apparently